At the WIRED briefing, Osterloh had both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro on hand to show off all these improvements. It was obvious that the two new phones share the same ultra-wide camera and main sensor, which can collect 150 percent more light than the Pixel 5, allowing for brighter and sharper images in low light. The Pro is a larger phone though and has an optional 4x optical telephoto lens.
However, the exterior design of the phone has been completely restored. Instead of the standard left-aligned camera protrusion, all cameras sit in a thick horizontal bar that extends the entire back of the phone. There are a number of colors to choose from, and the top above the camera strip has an accentuated color, mimicking the two-tone design of the original Pixel.
“If we’re going to change so much of what’s under the hood, we really should change the design of the product as well,” Osterloh says. “Pixel has always been known for photography, and it just makes that very clear.”
Other than a centrally placed selfie camera and on-screen fingerprint scanner, Google doesn’t share anything more about the Pixel. Osterloh says the company will go into more detail in the fall, closer to the official launch of the Pixel 6. It also did not share prices for the new phones, nor for the upcoming Pixel 5A – which is expected to be cheaper than the flagship model.
Not planning an upgrade, anyway? Osterloh says Google still plans to introduce some new features in the older Pixels, as it has done in recent years, but it still depends on whether the hardware can handle it. In more positive news, it is likely that the Pixel 6 line will have longer software support. Competitors like Samsung are delivering four years of security updates and three Android OS upgrades, but Google has been left without three years of support.
“We’re working on what our final numbers will be there and we definitely see an opportunity to extend that, so we’re excited about that,” Osterloh says.
Execution of the command
Google’s investment in its own chips underscores the company’s commitment to consumer hardware, although Google still claims only a single-digit percentage share in the global smartphone market. Osterloh indicated that the Tensor chip could eventually appear in other consumer devices, which would help him amortize the cost of investing in TPUs.
“Building your own chip can only take as long as you can scale, and it takes many hours to sustain it in a competitive environment,” says Anshel Sag, senior analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “That’s why Apple developed its chips on the iPhone, iPad and Mac and depreciated those chips on many models.”
So how will Tensor compare Apple’s Bionic chips, which Cupertino-based company likes to advertise as a powerful performance? Osterloh was not ready to share the benchmarks for the new Google chips. Sag says he believes it would be difficult for Google to achieve something in mobile chips that hasn’t already been done. “I don’t see Google surpassing Apple’s team, because Apple has had several generations of success in chips,” says Sag.
One element of Google’s smartphone business that could benefit it is the relatively small number of phones it sells. Global pressure on semiconductors is expected to continue for many more months and to affect everything from car deliveries to home appliances to gadgets. If Google ships this system on a chip this year, Sag says, the company probably ordered the tiles about two years ago and they almost certainly negotiated how many phones they expect to sell. “Which isn’t much,” Sag concludes.
“Almost everything in semiconductors is currently limited,” says Osterloh. “For this particular chip, we have a lot of control over it and we don’t believe the Pixel 6 line will be limited. So that’s a positive. But there are so many semiconductors in the product, as in any electronic product, that it was definitely a difficult problem. It has affected us this year, for sure. ”
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